GDB 43.0: Coaching (and playing) for a job

Todd Nelson7

Interim head coach Todd Nelson has the Oilers trending in the right direction for the first time in a long time, but there is still a sizable contingent out there that hopes to see a veteran head coach take over the reins when Edmonton makes a final decision this summer. How good does Nelson have to be to lose that “interim” tag?

Since the departure of Craig MacTavish from the bench, Nelson has the Oilers rolling along with a 3-1-2 record. If the team wins half of its 40 remaining games and collects overtime losses at its usual rate, Edmonton would finish the year 23-15-8 under his watch; would management fire him if that were to happen? Short of Mike Babcock showing up at the offices on Kingsway hat-in-hand it would be awfully difficult to justify.

That’s the line in the sand for me. If Nelson can have the team operating at something in the range of a true 0.500 clip the rest of the way (with the caveat that it needs to be on merit; if shootout wins and save percentage get him there it’s a different conversation) that’s a playoff contender and it has to be good enough given the state of the roster. If he’s somewhere south of that, it probably depends on two things:

  • His team’s performance: how far south of 0.500 it is (and what the underlying numbers look like)
  • Who else is available

There are a lot of interesting coaches already out there (Guy Boucher is probably at the top of my list, though there are others) and if someone like Todd McLellan shakes loose in the summer that field could get crowded in a hurry.

But if Nelson can get this team playing like a playoff contender, there isn’t any sense in going out to add another coach in the hopes that he can do the same thing.

Lottery Standings

Rank   Team   Games Points
30.   Edmonton Oilers    42 29
29.  Buffalo Sabres 43 31
28. Carolina Hurricanes  42 31
27. Arizona Coyotes 41 36
26. New Jersey Devils 44 38

Wins are always important. In the case of the Oilers, a lot of good can come from winning even now. It might help convince internal options like Jeff Petry and Rob Klinkhammer to stick around and it should also make this summer’s free agent shopping a little easier. It might help salvage the careers of people like Nail Yakupov,Anton Lander and Matt Fraser and it might also reinvigorate people like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle who have to be sick of playing for a bad hockey team.

But there is a consolation prize for losses: the worst team in the league is going to get to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. A win tonight will move the Oilers into a tie for 28th with Buffalo and Carolina, but a loss will keep them mired in 30th.

Personally, I think it’s virtually certain the Oilers finish ahead of at least the Sabres when all is said and done, so the team might as well move past them tonight.

Expected Lineup

1.11.15 DF lines

There isn’t much new with the lines tonight, so I’ll instead point the reader to Lowetide’s piece earlier today on Derek Roy’s importance to the lineup as well as Matt Henderson’s take on what the arrival of Rob Klinkhammer means for the “fourth” line. 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Litter Box Cats

Tonight at 7PM ET, the Florida Panthers will faceoff with the Oilers at Rexall Place in Edmonton, AB. Tonight’s contest will be the 25th between the two. Florida is currently 8-9-4 in the all-time series, with three ties. Like the Panthers’ last game, with a win tonight, they’ll get to .500 in points percentage all-time with a win.

Florida hasn’t defeated Edmonton, believe it or not, since December 11th, 2008. Radek Dvorak and Stephen Weiss potted markers, and Craig Anderson stopped all 41 Oilers shots for the 2-0 shutout victory. Since then, the Panthers have gone 0-2-3 in the series.

Tonight…

RobertoLuongoSpeedoKlondike

Game day prediction: Florida is on the fifth game of a six-game road trip, and while the team has gone 3-1-0 so far at some point that travel has to start to wear. Edmonton wins 3-1.

Obvious game day prediction: Half of Edmonton’s fans will watch Aaron Ekblad play and rue that he was gone before the Oilers got to pick this summer. The other half will watch his partner, Brian Campbell, and wish that Edmonton had traded for him back when the Blackhawks were looking to dump his salary. All of them will be right.

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Jason tried this on his last GDB and came close, so here I go: Anton Lander will score his first NHL goal in nearly three years tonight against the Panthers.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

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  • vetinari

    Off topic part 2… The Thai women chat ad that runs all over OilerNation is useless… I talked to a bunch of them and none of them knew anything about the Oilers, let alone hockey!

  • YFC Prez

    Had a guy fixing my fridge and just sat down with 10 left in the second. Does the score dictate the play, or did the oilers do ok till now? They look alright at this point.

    • vetinari

      Got better in the second. In the first, all the lines thought that it would be a good idea to turn over the puck to Panthers, over and over. Got lucky that it was only 1-0 after one.

  • Zarny

    How satisfied were you last April? After the Oilers finished the final 61 games with 57 pts (25-29-7). Draisaitl instead of maybe Ekblad. 28th and a bit more “pride”. Was it worth it?

    Everyone inside the dressing will play to win and I do think the Oilers will end up in 27th or 28th; but they won’t be better off for it. That’s just the unfortunate paradox.

  • M22

    A TALL ORDER

    Jonathan would like to see the team half their games under Nelson, I think he said 23-18-5.

    The Oilers have played at that pace in the regular season, barely, twice in the last quarter century. In 2005-6 and 2007-8 they won 41 games out of 82. Other than that, in each of the last 25 seasons, they have failed to win half of their regular season games.

    • bradleypi

      CORRECTION

      Jonathan suggested that the Oilers going 23-15-8 would be enough to justify Nelson getting the HC job permanently. That would be a turnaround for the ages.

      • bradleypi

        FUN FACT!

        Last season 14 out of 30 NHL teams won MORE than half their regular season games, ie. 42 or more.

        The Oilers have not accomplished that in 26 years, 25 seasons, since they won their last Stanley Cup.

  • YFC Prez

    Looking at numbers the whole way in and drilled him very hard face first into the boards. Shouldn’t that have been a major? Not that it really matters this late though.

  • bradleypi

    It’s hard to love there’s so much to hate

    Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of

    And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late

    So maybe we should all be praying for time

  • bradleypi

    At this point I have to say that I honestly do not care where the Oilers finish. Drafting 1st does not guarantee we will be better. Playing for “pride” is not going to magically carry over into the next year and propel us forward. And I honestly don’t care if Nelson is the coach next year or not. I think he is doing better than Eakins but I also believe getting rid of Kreuger after 48 games was a colossal mistake.

    The only thing I care about is that we rid this proud organization of K Lowe and his buddies. All the other stuff is secondary.

  • D

    Unless McJesus can also take some shifts on the blueline and pop in the odd shutout, this team isn’t going to be much better next year. And for as great as Roy and Klinkhammer are playing, they’re also UFAs at the end of the season.

    The rest of this season should be focused on player development. Give Lander more minutes. Keep Yak with Roy. Bring up Marincin and Simpson. Give Brossoit a few games at the end of the season.

    If they finish 28th, you have something to build on, and there are still some high-quality prospects rated 3-5. With Nelson as coach, we can hopefully expect some development in these young players. And if they finish 30th, but we see growth, then that’s a win too.

    A blind focus on winning isn’t helpful, and neither is a blind focus on tanking. They will lose a majority of their games simply because they have a weak blueline and get below average goalkeeping. So focus on next season by trying to improve the weaker areas.

  • bradleypi

    OILERS!! New guy here. Looking forward to contributing to the non sense that goes on around here. Say no to McD. We don’t need that kid here. We need wins to get a winning attitude to bring in a culture. We don’t need another first pick. Don’t want to see oil getting a high pick next year either. I’m asking for too much. All the losing is clouding oiler fans. Cheer for wins not for looses. Be a real oiler fan. Stop wanting high picks. Trade the pick and get some key pieces for the pick. I trust McT will do the right thing. Craig’s on it. GO OILERS!!

  • Randaman

    It would be nice to get a top two pick this draft.
    It would be embarrassing to get a top two pick.

    And that embarrassment would carry on for as long as the Oilers have these players on their roster.

    Make everyone happy. Win.

  • Randaman

    I thought Eakins was part of the ‘tank plan’.

    It’s appears their plan has changed. I think another lesson learned by the inexperienced Oiler Management.

    Damn shame they have to learn as they go. At least I hope they’re learning.